Betfreds managing director has urged employees to lobby their MP to oppose the expected cut to the 100 stake punters can wager every 20 seconds on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), a leaked email has revealed.
Fixed-odd betting machines have been called the crack-cocaine of gambling. They allow gamblers to bet with high stakes and critics say they are highly addictive and a social blight.
It is believed Treasury-backed plans to impose a 2 maximum stake are being considered, following a review, with a decision understood to be imminent.
The gambling industry has launched a last-ditch campaign to prevent the move, citing disputed figures which have been discredited from within the industry that claim 21,000 jobs would subsequently be at risk.
This would have a significant impact on the viability of the number of our shops and therefore employment in our businesses it is not too late to warn your MP of the unintended consequences of such a drastic cut, reads the email sent to Betfred employees from Mark Stebbings, the managing director.
Simply fill in the postcode of where you live, the system will identify who your local MP is, then fill in your contact details and press send the letter is already written for you and it will be emailed to your MP.
The pre-written email, beneath an email with the subject 21,000 jobs are at stake, contains a link to the Back Your Local Bookie website, a campaign set up by the Association of British Bookmakers.
This is unfair not only to the majority who gamble responsibly but also to my local betting shop and the staff who work there, Betfred employees are urged to say.
However, an MP said the real risk to jobs in bookmakers is the introduction of self-service betting terminals to shops, which could soon see them completely unmanned.
This is a last-minute desperate attempt to stop the inevitable, said Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP who has campaigned for gambling reform.
The introduction of self-service betting terminals to bookmakers shops will be the key driver of any future job losses, not a 2 maximum stake.
This is another classic example of the industry protecting profits, not people; whether employees or punters.
Bookmakers have cut the number of staff in their shops over the past decade, with many of them now single-manned for large periods during the day something previously unheard of.
It has been reported that Betfred staff were told just prior to Christmas that their pay would be cut and thereafter linked to fixed-odd terminal profits, while other jobs were placed on notice.
Betfred staff, many of whom are on the minimum wage, have also been offered high-interest loans at 39.9 per centAPR, on the staff intranet from a company owned by the companys billionaire owner Fred Done.
Last year, Mr Done was the 22nd highest donor to the Conservative Party, giving250,000.
A Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesperson said: After years of treating their staff appallingly, and cutting jobs while increasing the number of FOBTs, Betfred are now trying to blackmail their staff into lobbying MPs against a reduction to 2 a spin.
There are at least 34,388 machines in bookmakers shops, which are clustered in low income areas, andhave become a staple of the high street.
For example, there are more than twice as many machines in Bethnal Green and Bow as in Chelsea and Fulham and, accordingly, more than twice as much is gambled on them.
Bethnal Green and Bow also havemore than three times as many people claiming unemployment benefits as Chelsea and Fulham, figures from 2014 showed.
British gamblers lose 1.8bn on FOBTs every year, up 73 per centsince 2009, despite the number of machines rising by just 9 per cent indicating people are losing ever larger sums.
Each machine rakes in an average of 52,887 a year, which amounts to around twice the national average wage.
There are 2.3 million people at risk of developing a gambling addiction in the UK, including up to 560,000 problem gamblers.
More than one in 10, 11.5 per cent, of the people who use FOBT machines in bookmakers are problem gamblers.
There were more than 230,000 individual sessions in 2016 where punters lost more than 1,000 on the machines.